Among the chief means for identity thieves to acquire personal information is through the use of the Internet, and Northern Illinois University’s Department of Police and Public Safety says members of the university community can be at risk if they’re not careful.
“Most users re-use the same password, or similar passwords, with only minor variations,” says Jim Fatz, commander of investigations at NIU Police. “This allows a bad actor the ability to find a weakest link source of information that can be leveraged to exploit other more critical sites and access points.”
People increasingly connect to the Internet from mobile devices. With smartphones and other portable devices providing the ability to conduct everyday activities such as mobile banking, online shopping, teleworking, and social networking, cyber criminals are constantly looking to take advantage of non-secure wireless networks, third-party applications and texting to acquire personal information.
“The dramatic increase in the use of social media sites in conjunction with mobile device utilization creates a large landscape from which a user’s identity and information can be harvested,” Fatz adds.
Homeland Security offers the following simple tips to prevent identity theft:
- Protect all devices, such as computers, smart phones, and gaming systems that connect to the Internet from viruses and malware; only connect over a secure network.
- Keep social security numbers, account numbers and passwords private as well as specific information about yourself, such as full name and birth date.
- Own your online presence: set secure privacy settings on social networking websites and think twice about what is posted and said online.
- When banking and shopping, make sure the site is security enabled with “https://” or “shttp://.”
- Think before acting: be wary of messages that implore immediate action, offer something that sounds too good to be true or ask for personal information.
- Speak up. Let the website know if something inappropriate is on the site.